Drug-Impaired Driving

Much like with drinking and driving, police can also charge people with ‘Impaired Operation of a Motor-Vehicle by a Drug’. This can include specific drugs or a combination of drugs. If you’re charged with this offence, you should seek the assistance of a lawyer who has experience defending these charges.

Unlike the ‘Over 80’ charge, there is no current offence for operating a motor-vehicle with a certain amount of drugs in a person’s system. Instead, Canadian law makes it illegal for a person to be impaired by a drug while operating or being ‘care and control’ of a motor-vehicle.

If the police have a reasonable suspicion that a person has consumed a drug and has been operating a motor-vehicle, they may demand that person submit to something called a Standard Field Sobriety Test (“SFST”). A SFST involves three tests carried out at the roadside: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk and Turn Test and the One Leg Stand Test. If the person fails the SFST, the police then have grounds to arrest the person and bring them back to the station for further testing.

Once at the station, the police will have a specially qualified officer conduct a Drug Recognition Evaluation (“DRE”). The DRE involves multi-step procedure carried out by the DRE officer:

  1. Conduct breath test to rule out alcohol impairment
  2. Interview arresting officer for their observations/grounds
  3. Initial examination including pulse check
  4. Eye exams including Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, Vertical Gaze Nystagmus and convergence
  5. Divided attention test including Walk and Turn test, Modified Romberg balance test and Finger To Nose test
  6. Physical examination including pulse check, blood pressure and body temperature
  7. Darkroom examination of pupils including mouth and nose inspection
  8. Muscle tone examination
  9. Search for and inspect injection sites

Upon completion of the above steps, the DRE officer will then fill out a DRE Drug Symptomatology Matrix where they indicate which drugs they believe the accused person has consumed.

The DRE officer will then make a demand for the accused person’s blood or urine which will be sent for analysis.

Determining whether the Crown can prove that a person was ‘Impaired by a Drug’ depends on the entirety of the circumstances. Each piece of the evidence (drugs found in the car, admission of consumption, indicia of impairment, the DRE, blood/urinalysis, etc.) will need to be assessed and challenged.

The penalties for being convicted of ‘Impaired Operation of a Motor-Vehicle by a Drug’ are the same for being impaired by alcohol: a first-time offender is likely to get a fine and a driving prohibition. If it is not the offender’s first conviction for this type of offence, there is also a risk of jail.

Offenders convicted of ‘Impaired Operation of a Motor-Vehicle by a Drug’ are not eligible for the early interlock program in Ontario.

The content on this web site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this web site are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting Branden Miller or another lawyer regarding any specific legal issues.